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India identifies LED lighting as key technology to control energy demand


The Indian government has developed policies to stimulate the adoption of LED lighting in the country, and is funding a number of pilot LED street-lighting projects, explains PHILIP JESSUP.

Until recently, the high-brightness LED revolution had bypassed India. This is surprising because the lighting market in India, according to industry reports, is valued at $1.4 billion and has been growing at the robust rate of 18% annually. Meanwhile, western lighting companies like Philips have been manufacturing in India for 75 years, with thousands of employees, alongside well-known Indian brands such as Crompton Greaves and Bajaj Electricals.

The rapidly-growing influx of inexpensive Chinese-manufactured LED products caught the notice of policymakers. By that year, the LED lighting market in India had grown to $49 million. India’s National Manufacturing Competitive Council, a national agency with Cabinet ranking, convened a Core Committee chaired by the Ministry of Power to look into the appropriate policy measures for accelerating the adoption of LED lighting in India. After extensive consultation with the lighting industry, LED manufacturers, Indian states and cities, and other stakeholders, the Committee submitted its report, entitled “The Economic Case to Stimulate LED Lighting in India,”.

A key driver of Indian government LED policy is the need to significantly enhance energy efficiency across all sectors of the economy, in order to decouple growth in energy demand from economic growth. Otherwise, a very expensive three- or four-fold increase in primary energy production will be required by 2031-32 to sustain economic growth of 8-9% annually. India wants to sustain this rate of growth in order to eradicate poverty and improve living standards.

LED lighting report

The Core Committee’s report, which was drafted largely the Ministry’s Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE), highlighted the potential for LEDs to reduce electricity demand for lighting, which consumes 22-25% of the national load. Peak demand is a particular worry, as its rapid growth tends to increase the need for more power plants to supply the necessary headroom load.

The report singled out residential electricity demand as a significant potential market for LED A-lamps. There are 400 million lamps in Indian households, mostly incandescent bulbs, consuming 70 million MWh annually. The penetration of LEDs in this sector could reduce household electricity use by 30%. Street-lighting applications and commercial buildings are other areas where LEDs also need to be promoted.

The Committee’s report identified the key barriers to the market penetration of LEDs in India, as follows:

• Limited product availability in India;
• High initial cost, even with carbon finance assisting;
• Absence of national technical standards for LEDs, leading to the importation of sub-standard LED devices;
• Lack of testing protocols and laboratories;
• Lack of incentives such as demand or fiscal measures to attract major LED firms to manufacture in India.

In order to address these barriers, the Committee focused in particular on a new aggregate-demand policy, modeled after the Government of India’s Bachat Lamp Yojana program. This innovative market transformation increased compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) sales from 20 million annually in 2003-04 to 250 million in 2009-10. It did this by creating an aggregate-demand mechanism in which electricity-distribution companies pooled product purchases with funds from private investors, who in turn received emissions-reduction certificates through the Clean Development Mechanism.

The aim of the new LED aggregate-demand policy will be to attract leading LED manufacturers to India and to rapidly reduce product costs. The government has established the Central Institutional Mechanism (CIM) with representation of all the key ministries and regulatory bodies to implement the new aggregate-demand policy and other measures recommended by the Core Committee’s report. Details are being work out.

Pilot trials of LED street lights

Meanwhile, since 2009 the BEE has been providing grants to Indian municipalities to undertake pilot trials of LED street lamps. Public lighting in India requires approximately 4400 MW of connected load, so targeting street lighting makes sense, if 50-70% energy reduction can be achieved through installation of LEDs. To date, 13 LED projects have been completed in cities in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Maharashtra and Nagaland. Anecdotal evidence suggests that results of these pilots have been mixed, largely because of lack of knowledge about how to go about procuring quality LED products at the municipal level. Reportedly, there have been some product failures.

In this context, The Climate Group has been working closely with the BEE to promote LED street-lighting in two municipalities: Kolkata in the state of West Bengal, and Thane, a suburb of Mumbai in the state of Maharashtra. The BEE has provided grants of $100,000 each to Kolkata and Thane for one-year trials, to be matched with local funds. Additionally, The Climate Group is working with Haldia Development Authority (HDA), in West Bengal, in an LED street-lighting project in the port city of Haldia, investment for which is being borne wholly by HDA.

The Kolkata trial has advanced the furthest. Installation of the first group of 273 Philips Lumec luminaires took place in  2010, with 180W and 150W LED models replacing the existing 440W and 250W high-pressure sodium (HPS) lamps, respectively. Monitoring began in January 2011.

Results to date have been encouraging. Only one luminaire has failed to date, due to a faulty driver. The LED luminaires are meeting India’s IS 1944 Group A1 roadway-lighting standard, which mandates an average illuminance of 30 lux. The LED luminaires are also providing more illuminance than the baseline HPS luminaires, while achieving nominal savings ranging from 40% to 59% for replacement of the two HPS wattage types. A full year of monthly data is needed to assess lumen maintenance.

Meanwhile, consumer feedback has been extremely positive. A professional public survey conducted in July 2011 interviewed 85 drivers, pedestrians, shopkeepers and park visitors. More than 90% of the driver respondents said the LEDs improved visibility on the road, and more than 70% of the pedestrians interviewed had the same view. In terms of road safety, 70% of drivers felt safer, while 40% of pedestrians felt safer (40% of respondents felt there was no change). A majority of respondents favored an LED rollout across Kolkata’s busy streets, the positive responses ranging from 75% of shopkeepers to 90% of drivers.

The positive trial results and consumer feedback have convinced Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) officials to scale up. KMC now plans to install 15,000 LED streetlights through the next phase of the Kolkata Environment Improvement Project (KEIP).

As central-government LED policies evolve, municipal trials like the one in Kolkata are lending practical experience to national policymakers as they decide what new technical resources, standards, and institutions are needed to enable India to join Japan, China, Taiwan, and Korea at the forefront of the high-brightness LED revolution in Asia.

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